When wardrobe doesn’t show up, John Duff goes buff in his latest music video Somebody’s Daughter.
Sometimes good things can come out of being ghosted. Your date doesn’t show up but then you find out they’re married… with children… or sometimes your costume designer ghosts you three days before a shoot and you have to make a whole music video almost from scratch.
“The entire thing was an accident. Everything was scheduled for a certain day but was supposed to be for a different song,” John Duff confessed to Options. “There were supposed to be eight matching outfits in every different setup. The costume designer ghosted three days before the shoot.” By then, it was too late to cancel so Duff made it work. He called up his writer friend, “I want to do a song where I’m straight and the entire video is going to be naked because we have no clothes.” Thus, Somebody’s Daughter was born. This was the creative process for the video. Essentially, it was a happy accident that turned into something amazing.
Duff is always his own creative director. Usually, when he collaborates with people, it’s more organizational. His makeup artist stays the same as does his editor. Otherwise, he’s open to the vision that suits what he’s trying to create. “Visually, I am an absurdist,” is a quote you’ll find on Duff’s Spotify page. When asked what that means, Duff explained to Options that it’s all about the creative process. It can be about making people uncomfortable just by putting yourself in front of them and saying, “Here I am.” The same things that people expect from cis hetero women, they don’t expect from gay men and that makes people uncomfortable, but that’s okay.
“You know what else is uncomfortable? Growing.” And it is so true. Ask yourselves why it makes you uncomfortable to see a Gay man being openly sensual in the same way a straight woman is. The growing comes from what you do with that discomfort. You can choose to sit with it and say "Hey what’s so different about this?" or you can decide that it’s unsightly and wrong and therefore, never grow. This is another mode of hypocrisy that comes out of the Queer community.
John Duff and other Queer men should feel able to be comfortable and fluid in their bodies the same way a straight woman does and the growing comes from knowing and being comfortable with this. Duff mentioned to me that sometimes he regrets not starting his career straight because “everyone would have liked me more when I came out as Gay.”
However, Duff does think that stuffing one's self in a box is stupid. In 2020, during an interview with In Magazine, Duff stated, “So, I’m not gay. I’m not bi. I’m not straight. I’m not asexual. I don’t even know anymore. I’m just living. Boxes are stupid.” Of course, I had to ask if that was still true:
“I’ve always felt there's so much pressure for people to label themselves, put themselves in a box, and stay there for the rest of their lives. The best advice I can give to a young person who is figuring it out is just take your time and figure it out. There is a pressure to identify ourselves, not in what makes us similar but what makes us different. We all are kinda everything”
I don’t do anything if it’s not what I want.
The response to Somebody’s Daughter so far has been pretty good. It’s been so great that another version of the song was released. It features the same melody and same lyrics but is delivered in an XXX version that is delivered in a rock and roll way, inspired by Janet/ Michael Jackson vibes from the late 80s.
Duff is the creator of Somebody’s Daughter, a recent song and video where he decides to be straight. “So many times when I’m being creative, for me it’s about filling a gap that I don’t see filled. I’ve never seen a gay artist be straight. I’ve seen plenty of straight artists be gay.” It’s no secret that John is not a fan of the gay-baiting artists who are gaining recognition by being something they’re not so he’s decided to flip the script.
“Straight artists who are now wearing dresses, saying they are fluid. It does feel that it’s come at a convenient time. It’s an element of social contagion that many people wanna jump on.”
However, it doesn’t seem that Queer artists get it as easily. They have to work twice as hard while being their authentic self, meanwhile, straight artists get to “play gay” and the world eats it up. Duff is right- there is a certain hypocrisy that comes from Gay media celebrating straight artists being “fluid” but doesn’t celebrate Queer artists nearly as much. How do we change this or shift focus? For Duff, he has decided to make music that he hasn’t found anywhere else. Much of his music is similar to Somebody’s Daughter in that it’s sometimes raunchy, fun, colorful, and in some cases amazingly inappropriate.
Duff has lived many lives. Growing up, he lived close to Baltimore, Maryland which is a pretty liberal place. In fact, Gay and Trans people are protected from the so-called gay panic defense in the state. Overall, it is a live-and-let-live kind of place which is comforting. It also features Baltimore Club which is a favorite music genre of Duff’s and sometimes influences his music. Duff has also lived in the Big Apple, where he enjoyed acting and working in theater which lent some inspiration to a lot of his music as well. Before moving to LA to be a star, Duff spent much time on the stage performing so he is not new to this life. He’s surely making a name for himself and staying authentic while doing it.
Aside from theater, a lot of the inspiration for Duff’s music comes from being a true music lover, enjoying music from the 1930s to the present. He is a true savant when it comes to music and does not keep his identity rooted in one thing. His inspiration for music comes from all types of genres. You can hear it in his music. No two songs sound the same.
After listening to all the music Duff has shared with the world, I had to ask where the inspiration for his music came from. The versatility was so refreshing that I found myself more and more impressed with every song. I started with Somebody’s Daughter, then moved on to songs like Girly which is upbeat and fun, like High Heels which has a soulful vibe to it, and Hokie Pokie which is so delightfully raunchy. Duff recounted a hilarious story of mothers searching for the song for their children but coming across this and staying to listen two or three more times. It’s amazing the things you can find when you’re not looking. They tend to surprise you and make you realize what you have been missing.
With Somebody’s Daughter, at the time Duff was being devious in his dating habits (AKA a so-called hoe phase, he admits). He was sort of the subject of his own song; the person that couldn’t be pinned down. I talked to Duff about some of his other work, like Girly. Girly was written the day after the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. Duff was able to open up to me about where songs like Girly come from. “Often when I’m in an emotional state, I try and write something that expresses all of my feelings. Very often when I pivot into something more joyful and empowering, I articulate my feeling better.” Girly was sort of a rebellion of what (Duff felt) was the beginning of an anti-LGBT movement. He had never heard a song like Girly.
Talking to Duff and getting to know him and his music has made me think about what I was missing this whole time. He is delightful to talk to, full of amazing quotes and wisdom, and such pride in his work that it’s infectious. If there is anything that Options readers take from this, it’s to give Duff and artists like him their flowers. Their music comes from places we all have been before but have been too nervous to be open. Duff does not hide who he is or dim his spotlight for anyone and neither should we.
If there’s anything Duff would like readers to know, it is a short message of encouragement. There are over 100,000 songs uploaded every single day. There are over a million songs coming out every week. To other artists who feel like they’re small, if you get even 1000 views, you are already in the top 10 percent of artists on the internet. So it’s hard to scale and easy to compare yourself to someone else. There’s so much coming out that it’s easy to get lost. Have some grace with yourself and keep going. The audience is out there.
What’s next for John Duff? Well first, he is still figuring it out. He’s shot a couple more videos that should be released within the year. He will be performing at pride events and hoping to get out on the road and keep performing.